Surrendering Comfort + Easy French Apple Cake

Surrendering Comfort + Easy French Apple Cake

We’ve been on the field for 10 years and just last year we started going to local fellowship as a family on a regular basis.

There, I said it. It’s shameful and embarrassing. I’ve been loaded down with excuses for years, but they were recently all stripped away, right along with my pride.

In past years, we’ve always been on a foreign team that met together on Sundays. I longed for corporate worship, but not in a language I could barely speak and definitely couldn’t read. I desired to gather with my local Brothers and Sisters, but not necessarily at the cost of being in an uncomfortable place (no heat in the winter, no AC in the summer, crammed and crowded). I wanted my kids to develop friendships with local kids, but how, when they couldn’t understand the language and often no kids’ program was provided?

The excuses could go on. I had in my mind it was better to not attempt to go than to be uncomfortable.

When we switched orgs last year, we knew we’d have to step up our language game. In the past, we could skim by with minimal language as English teachers. Now, we’re working with half local staff, and meetings and most work are all in the local language. It was and still is intimidating to be forced to share or speak on topics when nearly everyone else’s language is better than mine. It’s challenging to want to share more from my heart, but I just can’t because my vocabulary is that of a first grader.

Even after diving in with language more, local church was still hard. When we started going as a family last year (because a foreign gathering was only offered occasionally), it was challenging from the first service. Not only did the discomforts mentioned above smack me in the face, but new challenges arose. Due to new laws, Sunday school was no longer offered. This meant trying to keep the kids quiet and entertained for 2 hours (often 3 on communion Sundays). Even though my language was improving, my spiritual terminology was nearly non-existent. I followed no song and almost no sermon. I felt like I was going through the motions of a liturgical meeting. The kids started complaining about going and I didn’t have great encouragement to give them when I was struggling so much myself. My lament game was strong.

Then, a few weeks ago, while in a spiritual language class, I felt my pride begin to crack and heard the gentle whispers of “surrender” in my heart. As our teacher, a teammate who has lived in this land for over 20 years, described the local church and all its complications, he one-by-one picked apart (unbeknownst to him!) all of my excuses I had built up for 9 years. I was the only one in the room that didn’t get why the benefits outweighed the uncomfortable sacrifices.

The invitation was there, waiting for me to dig deeper.

With encouragement from my husband who saw the inner turmoil, I took an afternoon to sip coffee and process what the Lord was trying to show me. I started with reading a few articles our teacher wrote about the benefits of going to local church. Seemed like an appropriate place to start.

Each article literally knocked out each one of my tightly-gripped excuses. No Sunday school? No problem. Set service time limits, parents take turns going, or give kids age-appropriate, yet Bible-related activities to do. Uncomfortable environment? Well, yes, so come prepared just like you do all the other times. Bring a fan or a hot water bottle. Can’t understand a thing being said? Take on the language challenge! Figure out the passage and study it on your own, then each week begin to add a few words to your vocabulary. No one catches every word, especially when the pastor is speaking with a heavy dialect.

My take-aways from those articles, that I believe the Lord spoke directly through, and my time processing included being patient with myself in this process, giving up the idea that this is going to be anything like my very comfy American church, and realizing that by merely showing up, I am supporting and encouraging the local Body.

As one who is called to serve this people group, I can think of no more excuses to not join the local church each week. I know it won’t be easy and the journey will be long, but in the end, the sacrifices will be worth it.  

What has the Lord prompted you to surrender lately? Is going to your local fellowship easy to enjoy, or hard to endure? How have you managed to turn the hardships into joy?


I’ve been wanting to try this French apple cake for a while. I saw the recipe floating around one of my favorite blogger’s page and was waiting for the right time to try it. The right time arrived! It’s fall, which means apples are aplenty, and I needed to take a dessert to a French-Chinese couple. Perfect opportunity! It didn’t disappoint. The original recipe calls for rum, which I don’t have and am too cheap to buy just for cakes, so I left it out. I’m sure it would add a nice depth, but it also tastes amazing without it!

The original recipe also calls for various kinds of apples, but I have no idea what kinds we have here! I go for the pinkish red that aren’t too mushy. Maybe something close to a Fuji.
Simple batter, whipped up in just a few minutes.
Every time I make it, the amount of apples (which I don’t really measure) always seems like too much compared to the batter. But don’t fear! The batter rises and ends up hugging each apple bit.
Golden, crispy outside dotted with warm, sweet apples.
You definitely don’t have to add powdered sugar, but it makes it look so pretty, why not?
Perfectly paired moist cake with tender, but not mushy apples.

Easy French Apple Cake

Makes: 9 inch cake, serves 6-8

Ready in: 1 hour

Slightly adapted from: Once Upon A Chef

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup-2/3 cup granulated sugar (depending on your sweetness preference), plus more for sprinkling over cake
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
  • 2 baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (3-1/2 – 4 cups chopped)
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional), for decorating cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175 C) and set an oven rack in the middle position. Grease a 9-inch springform or regular cake pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. If using a regular cake pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease again.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and rum (if using). Don’t worry if the batter looks grainy at this point; that’s okay. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped apples.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and even the top. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Allow the cake to cool on a rack. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake. If using a springform pan, remove the sides. If using a regular cake pan, carefully invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, then gently flip the cake over and place right-side-up on a platter. Using a fine sieve, dust with confectioners’ sugar (if using). Cake can be served warm or room temperature, plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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  1. Laura October 12, 2020

    Ashley, thank you for this post! I never took formal Portuguese lessons, but I did attend a Portuguese fellowship. So most of my vocabulary was actually “fellowship” vocabulary. It didn’t help me much at the grocery store, but getting to know locals and worshiping with them was a blessing, even when Sunday mornings felt long and confusing.

    1. Ashley Felder October 13, 2020

      How interesting that we’re opposite! Not a bad set of vocabulary to know. 😉

  2. Sarah Hilkemann October 14, 2020

    Thank you so much for sharing honestly, Ashley! It’s so encouraging to read about the journey that Father took you on. I love how He met you with just what you needed to hear (even if it wasn’t easy to process!). 🙂

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